Recent advances in the use of vitamin A (retinoids) in the prevention and treatment of cancer

Published on Saturday, 06 July 2013


Vitamin A, its physiologic metabolites, and synthetic derivatives (retinoids) have been shown to have protective effects against the development of certain types of cancer.

In addition, pharmacologic amounts of retinoids have been used with some success in the treatment of a few human tumors.

The chemoprevention effect of retinoids is most likely exerted at the tumor-promotion phase of carcinogenesis. Retinoids block tumor promotion by inhibiting proliferation, inducing apoptosis, inducing differentiation, or a combination of these actions.

Clinically, isotretinoin (13-cis-retinoic acid) significantly decreases the incidence of second primary tumors in patients with head-and-neck cancer and reduces appearance of non-melanoma skin cancer in patients with xeroderma pigmentosum.

Retinoic acid has proved to be an effective treatment for promyelocytic leukemia. However, retinoid resistance limits its use as a single agent.

Clinical trials are in progress to determine the efficacy of retinoids in treating other types of cancer such as neuroblastoma and breast carcinoma.

The development of receptor-selective retinoids and selective inhibitors of retinoid metabolism may lead to further use of retinoids in both chemoprevention and treatment of cancer.


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